Richmond Hill will soon be saying goodbye to a Finlandian who has called Coastal Georgia home for the past nine months.
Hanne Pirkola was this year’s Richmond Hill Rotary exchange student, the 11th the club has helped sponsor since the Georgia Rotary Student Program first began in 1996.
"This program is unique to Georgia," Rotarian Ray Pittman explained. "This year, 70 exchange students came here from all over Europe to study. They get to experience the culture while we help fund their tuition, room and board and some living expenses."
Pirkola attended Armstrong Atlantic State University this past year, after arriving in August.
"It’s been an amazing year and it was a great opportunity," Pirkola said.
Pirkola said she’s had a busy year. She finished an economics minor which will transfer to her university in Finland, where she hopes to complete her bachelor degree in marketing later this year. She plans to return to Georgia for a masters degree in sports administration after that.
She showed a slideshow and talked about how she spent time with many of the local and surrounding Rotary club members, including spending a weekend wakeboarding with friends, holiday parties and her first-ever Halloween.
She played AASU basketball as a walk-on and had the chance to travel throughout the region. She also traveled on her own time to Atlanta, Charleston, D.C. and Florida.
She will return home in June, after some more travel this month.
"The best part about my year here has been the people," she said. "I’ve made so many good friends…after I finish my degree I am looking forward to coming back to Georgia for my masters."